Rous County Council will discuss today the viability of the Dunoon Dam as part of its Future Water Project 2060 Integrated Water Cycle Management Plan.
Rous County Council will discuss today the viability of the Dunoon Dam as part of its Future Water Project 2060 Integrated Water Cycle Management Plan.

Shock decision on controversial Dunoon dam

UPDATE, 3.30pm: ROUS County Council has decided to scrap the idea of a Dunoon Dam from its Water Future Plan 2060.

After a last-minute motion by Lismore councillor Vanessa Ekins, councillors decided to scrap the 50GL dam in Dunoon.

Instead of the dam, the motion focused on changing the focus of the plan to the upgrade of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant and the use of new underground water from the Alstonville area for the first ten years, to develop technology to allow for direct and indirect potable reuse of water.

"It's independent of rainfall and constant supply, this is a viable option," Cr Ekins said.

Byron Shire councillor Simon Richardson spoke to support the motion, but spoke against the messages shared by groups opposing the dam idea.

"It is unfortunate that Rous has been compared to Metgasco," he said.

"The dam is technology from the last millenium, but this council does not stand for the destruction of our environment and we are required to discuss and explore all options."

Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader spoke against the motion.

"The bottomline is that we need water security and we must do something. Having one year supply at Rocky Creek dam is scary stuff," she said.

Richmond Valley councillor Robert Mustow said getting rid of the dam before detailed reports were completed would be deciding on the matter "on a whim."

"In 30 or 40 years time I am afraid what will happen in this area, today I feel we are not fully informed at throwing the dam away," he said.

Lismore councillor Darlene Cook supported the idea of removing the dam from the plan, saying that, among other reasons, she supported the concerns from local Aboriginal communities about the destruction of significantly cultural sites."How many times will we ask them if they want us to destroy their sites?" she said.

Rous chair, Ballina councillor Keith Williams decided not to use his casting vote to save the dam, and voted to remove the dam from the plan, "in order not to inflict suffering to the local Aboriginal community".

The motion was carried without a unanimous vote, with councillors Humphreys, Mustow and Cadwallader voting against it. 

Rous County councillors Robert Mustow, Sandra Humphrys, Simon Richardson, Keith Williams, general manager Phillip Rudd, a female Rous member of staff, Vanessa Ekins, Sharon Cadwallader and Darlene Cook at the December 16 meeting in Lismore. Byron Shire councillor Basil Cameron was also present at the meeting.
Rous County councillors Robert Mustow, Sandra Humphrys, Simon Richardson, Keith Williams, general manager Phillip Rudd, a female Rous member of staff, Vanessa Ekins, Sharon Cadwallader and Darlene Cook at the December 16 meeting in Lismore. Byron Shire councillor Basil Cameron was also present at the meeting.

UPDATE 1.55pm:
A last-minute motion was presented by Lismore councillor Vanessa Ekins for Rus County Council to cease all work in relation to the Dunoon dam.

The motion demands to "cease all work" and "disposal of land held for the purpose of the proposed Dunoon Dam".

During the conversation, Cr Ekins said "dams are not the future, destructive, expensive".

Instead of the dam, the motion focused on changing the focus of the plan to the upgrade of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant and the use of new underground water from the Alstonville area for the first ten years, to develop technology to allow for direct and indirect potable reuse of water.

"It's Independent of rainfall and constant supply, this is a viable option," Cr Ekins said.

The meeting has adjourned for 15 minutes.

Original report:

THE next milestone of the proposed Dunoon Dam will be decided today.

Rous County Council will today discuss whether to allocate $200,000 for detailed assessments on the viability of a proposed Dunoon Dam.

A further $100,000 would be spent on cultural heritage consultation if agreed by councillors.

Part of the Future Water Project 2060, the $220 million Dunoon Dam with a water storage capacity of 50 gigalitres would not be completed until 2029.

But data gaps and project risks still need to be addressed via a number of detailed assessments that would only be completed during the 2022/23 financial year.

 

The catchment and buffer zones of a Proposed Dunoon Dam as they will be discussed by Rous County Council.
The catchment and buffer zones of a Proposed Dunoon Dam as they will be discussed by Rous County Council.

This means the next time Rous would consider whether to continue with the Dunoon dam project would possibly be in late 2023 or early 2024.

After the project was unveiled, a public exhibition process was completed earlier this year, with data from that process being interpreted by Rous.

A total of 1298 online survey responses and other written submissions were received.

At least 70% of the responses and submissions received from within Rous's service area were provided by Lismore City residents - particularly those living in Dunoon, The Channon and other nearby areas.

 

COUNCILLORS: From left, present at the meeting were Cr Simon Richardson, Cr Vanessa Ekins, Phillip Rudd (General Manager), Cr Sandra Humphrys, Cr Keith Williams (Chair), Michael McKenzie (Future Water Project Manager), Cr Sharon Cadwallader (DEPUTY Chair), Cr Darlene Cook, Cr Robert Mustow.
COUNCILLORS: From left, present at the meeting were Cr Simon Richardson, Cr Vanessa Ekins, Phillip Rudd (General Manager), Cr Sandra Humphrys, Cr Keith Williams (Chair), Michael McKenzie (Future Water Project Manager), Cr Sharon Cadwallader (DEPUTY Chair), Cr Darlene Cook, Cr Robert Mustow.

There was a relatively low response rate from residents within the Ballina Shire, Byron

Shire and Richmond Valley areas, who would be benefited by the project.

"This result highlights how crucial council's relationship with directly affected landowners and nearby residents will be in identifying an acceptable balance between local needs and those of the wider region, should council decide to move ahead with the detailed investigation and assessment of the proposed dam," today's Rous meeting minutes reported to councillors.

 

Northern Rivers Water is asking Rous County Council to explore other options.
Northern Rivers Water is asking Rous County Council to explore other options.

The approval of funding to assess the viability of the dam is one of a number of areas of work proposed by Rous in today's meeting.

The document outlines four actions submitted to councillors to approve: Immediate action to increase the system's secure yield from 2024; ongoing action to continue reducing water demand per connection; innovative action to pioneer the use of purified recycled water in NSW; and investment actions to determine the proposed Dunoon Dam's all-round viability.

As part of the immediate action, the minutes detailed plan for water loss management, smart metering, upgrading the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant and getting more water from Alstonville groundwater sites.

The meeting will be held today at Rous offices in Lismore from 1pm.


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